These are fraught times for the art world. When iconic museum spaces are taken over by auction houses and paintings become ever more lucrative investments for oligarchs and petrostate dictators, it can often seem as if art’s purposes are negated. But the shows this fall season tell us otherwise — especially in the form of a number of great Black artists who remind us of art’s necessity. Barkley Hendricks’s suave portraits will adorn the Frick Collection, while Henry Taylor — a wizard of freestyle figuration — will hold court at the Whitney. We will be treated to the amazing work of Njideka Akunyili Crosby at the galleries as well as an important exhibition devoted to the Black presence in early American folk art. To anyone who thinks art matters less than it once did, that it’s just harvesting tourist dollars and feeding the market — think again. These shows give us art in full.
Hilary Harkness: Prisoners From the Front
P·P·O·W (October 13–November 11)
Imagine the complexity of a gothic window crossed with strange sexual narratives, including those from the American Civil War. Harkness has a gigantic pictorial imagination and is one of the strongest figurative stylists anywhere.